x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Road to energy security links entire region

An interconnected GCC-wide market is the key to stability and security in countries where energy demand will continue to expand.

The array of solar panels lining the outskirts of Masdar City are but one indication of the Emirate's ambitious plans for harnessing the power of the sun. Shams 1, the largest concentrated solar power plant in the Middle East being built in Madinat Zayed, is another.

And this week's announcement by Al Maskari Holding to invest in Libya's solar market is a third. As we reported yesterday, a Dh11 billion commitment to Libya's energy market will partly include "the best solar resources in the world", according to Sheikha Aisha Al Maskari, the chairwoman of Al Maskari Holding.

The Abu Dhabi-based family company is investing in Libya for the same reason that other local entities have invested in Sweden, Qatar, and Spain: the national energy policy links the UAE not just to the region, but to the world.

Renewable energy is one long-term strategy to achieve this goal. Masdar has been a driver of this investment, pouring billions into renewable energy abroad and within its own institute. Wind turbines, solar panels, and experimental technology are all aimed at generating electricity to power the UAE's growing consumption - Abu Dhabi hopes to supply 7 per cent of demand with renewable energy by 2020.

The UAE's civilian nuclear programme will also have a substantive effect to boost power not only domestically, but regionally as the UAE is expected to hook into the GCC-wide power grid early next year.

This grid has the potential to create a regional hub for energy trading that could reduce electricity costs for individual countries and eventually allow the GCC access to larger markets, such as the pan-Arab and European grids. Over the summer, countries already linked to the grid avoided rolling blackouts by more efficiently trading energy.

An interconnected GCC-wide market is the key to stability and security in countries where energy demand will continue to expand. By partnering with countries who have technological know-how or raw resources, the UAE not only has the potential to meet its own demand, but to become a producer for the region's needs.